Construction Minister and Dame Judith Hackitt Update Industry at Virtual Conference

Nadhim Zahawi, Construction Minister and Dame Judith Hackitt

NADHIM ZAHAWI Secretary of State for Business and Construction Minister, today spoke about the Government’s objectives for construction and the soon to be published ‘playbook’ on how the public sector will buy £292 billion of projects each year.

The minister spoke at a virtual event hosted by NBS, The Construction Leaders’ Summit: The Digital Future. 

Nadhim Zahawi said, “We want to build dozens more hospitals, upgrade hundreds of schools and get thousands of new homes up on the market. We will only achieve this by working in unison, using our position as the sector’s biggest client. Our aim is to drive innovation, spark industry investment and create more opportunities for SMEs to deliver government projects. We want more UK and SME content in public contracts, written into the Government procurement playbook.”

Dame Judith Hackitt, chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, delivered an equally powerful speech. She spoke about about the changes which the construction industry must prepare for as the Building Safety Draft Bill is made into law.

Moral choice

Hackitt talked about what will happen in the implementation period before the regulator is operational in 2023, emphasising the personal responsibility of professionals in the industry to make the “moral choice” and ensure high rise buildings are safely built.

In February, at the NBS Construction Product Leaders’ Summit in Birmingham, Dame Judith expressed her frustration with the lack of progress being made on resolving problems uncovered in high rise buildings since the Grenfell Tower fire. Today she again underlined the urgent need for radical changes in culture, competencies and processes.

Dame Judith said, “The essence of the change that is needed is to stop looking at the letter of the law and finding ways to comply with minimum standards. The new approach to building safety must be about the opportunity to deliver buildings which we would all be happy to have our loved ones live in – confident that they feel safe and are safe. There is a moral imperative above the legal one.”

Richard Waterhouse, Chief Strategy Officer, NBS

Richard Waterhouse, Chief Strategy Officer, NBS, said, “We’ve seen that, if a major driver like the current pandemic comes along, all industries can change. Construction in particular, has really moved on. This was an industry known for being resistant to change, so it shows what’s possible in the right set of circumstances. Design teams used to working in co-located ways have found they can collaborate and communicate from their offices or from home, and can have their virtual teams working with the construction teams, still getting the input and the advice they need from manufacturers and sharing that with clients. New digital, collaborative ways of working have evolved and have been delivered rapidly.”

Incisive sessions

The first day of the event included other incisive sessions. McKinsey explored some of their construction reports in more detail. Mark Farmer, CEO of Cast, spoke about modular off-site construction and how key this approach will be in delivering the buildings the country needs. Dr Anne Kemp gave an informative talk around standards and the internationalisation of data, and there was also a session from Dr Stephen Hamil on how NBS has and is responding to these changes.

Mark Farmer, CEO of Cast

Mark Farmer said, “The ‘Modernise or Die’ challenge that I set out to the industry in 2016 has only become more urgent. Faced with a heady cocktail of Brexit, COVID-19, regulatory and policy reforms businesses have difficult decisions ahead. Economic headwinds are forcing a stark choice between short term retrenchment to business as usual, or embracing new models and innovation in order to successfully survive in a changing market.”

There is a second day tomorrow, where delegates will be split into two streams, one for specifiers and the other for manufacturers, both looking at the future of the industry.

Register to attend Day 2 here.

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